Photo Gallery: Photos of DeCastro during the 2013 season
David DeCastro's offseason has been anything but boring, with a trip to South Africa and setting sail on the Steelers Cruise to the Bahamas.
But where he probably has felt most comfortable over the last few months has been in the Steelers weight room, where he has been a regular working out with fellow lineman Mike Adams.
"I am doing what I did last year, just increasing it," said DeCastro of his offseason work outs. "I think I had a good offseason last year coming back from the knee, I just have to get stronger, come back in better shape and be in a better position than I was coming into the season last year."
DeCastro appeared in only four games his rookie season, coming back late in the year after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. Last year, though, was completely different. DeCastro started 15 games at right guard, missing just the New England game with an ankle injury. And his play showed why the Steelers spent a number one draft pick on him in 2012.
"I think we would have seen the same things the first season, but he got injured," said center Maurkice Pouncey. "This year he excelled. He is a great player. Hopefully he stays on the same track. I can't wait to get back out there with him."
While praise comes easy from teammates, DeCastro is not one to pat himself on the back. He sees areas where improvement is needed and has been working all offseason to assure that happens.
"I thought I played pretty well for the most part, but there is a lot to improve on," said DeCastro. "A lot more consistency; consistency is a key word for anyone in the NFL. It's one of those leagues if you are not giving 100 percent and your best effort, you will get beat. I did some good things, but I think I can do better and be more consistent all of the time."
Since DeCastro arrival in Pittsburgh as a rookie there have been noticeable changes. Teammates used to joke about how quiet he was, not just when talking to the media, but all of the time. That is changing, though.
"He is growing into the player everyone knew he was drafted to be," said guard Ramon Foster. "He took a big step last year. He is talking more, which is good. If you didn't know him, you didn't get much from him. He is showing emotion on game day. He is kicking tail. I am happy for him. I am happy with the moves he made last year."
DeCastro credits growing and maturing with the change Foster refers to, just getting a better understanding of what life in the NFL is all about.
"I have a lot more confidence," said DeCastro. "I am a lot more comfortable in the situation, and the environment I am in.
"I matured a lot, I grew up a lot. You go through things in the league and it teaches you a lot and you have to learn to be strong and have a hard shell. You can't worry about what people say and think. You have to be the judge of yourself. You can't worry about what others think. The only person that matters is you. You are the judge of yourself. You are your own harshest critic."
There are moments, good and bad, in a football season that you never forget. There was one that DeCastro knew he had to forget, had to put behind him in order to move forward.
In the season opener last year against the Tennessee Titans, DeCastro rolling into Pouncey's leg, resulting in a season-ending torn ACL for the Pro Bowl center. It was an accident, something that happens in the speed of a game. It ate away at DeCastro, but he knew to help the team he had to move past it.
"It was tough. It was real tough at first especially when you had something to do with it," said DeCastro. "It took me a while to recoup from that mentally, reset myself, refocus and know we still have some football there, you still have to play the games. I learned a lot about myself, had a lot of growing up to do. I thought the best thing I could do to make up for losing Pouncey was to play the best that I could, play the best football I could to help the team win.
"I beat myself up. I think anyone would in that situation. At the same time I did that and then let it go. I had to. I knew if I kept beating myself up I would be doing more harm than good and just making things worse."
The key point in him letting it go was Pouncey talked to him, letting him know that all was okay, that there was no blame game, no need to worry.
"Things happen. Everything happens for a reason," said Pouncey. "The injury I had was an accident. Nobody can fault anyone for that. If I would have done the same thing to him I would hope he would have called me and told me everything is okay, you are my brother and I love you the same way. Things happen. That is how the conversation went.
"If I did that to someone else I would hope they would call me and make me feel comfortable. I know he had to play the next couple of weeks and that is hard to do after something like that. He handled it the right way and he played great last year."* *